Lions Den: Headin’ to N’awlins

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The NFC North leading Detroit Lions (7-4) will travel to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome to take on the New Orleans Saints (5-6) on Sunday at 1 p.m.

Detroit is coming off of another close win against the Minnesota Vikings, while the Saints threw the ball all over the field, leading to a 49-21 victory over the Los Angeles Rams.

Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford should have a field day against the Saints’ secondary. New Orleans’ secondary ranks 27th in passing yards allowed per game, meaning Stafford should be able to find open receivers. Against the Vikings on Thanksgiving Day, Stafford threw for 232 yards and one touchdown. He should surpass those numbers this week, proving he is a legitimate MVP candidate.

Detroit’s running game hasn’t been great all year, and it likely won’t turn around in this game, as the Saints boast a top 15 rush defense. Theo Riddick will see the majority of the touches out of the backfield for the Lions. Dwayne Washington will see some carries, but Riddick is the clear number one back. Riddick finished last week’s game with nine carries for 45 yards. The Lions will rely more on the pass on Sunday, as this game could turn into a shootout.

Lions receivers could have breakout games on Sunday, as the Saints are one of the worst team’s against the pass. Marvin Jones, Golden Tate and Anquan Boldin put together solid performances last week, and will look to build on that going forward. When all of them are contributing, the Lions are a hard offense to stop. Boldin, Tate and Jones combined for 200 of Stafford’s 232 yards last week. Boldin was also able to catch Stafford’s lone touchdown in the game.

Saints quarterback Drew Brees is one of the best quarterbacks at home, and that trend should continue against a suspect Lions secondary. Brees threw for 310 yards and four touchdowns against the Rams last week at home. The Lions’ secondary has looked better over the last two weeks, but the quarterbacks they played are no where near the talent level of Brees. Detroit ranks 14th in passing yards allowed per game, but could struggle against the high powered Saints offense.

New Orleans’ high powered offense isn’t just all through the air as they boast the ninth best rushing offense in terms of yards per game. Detroit’s defense is pretty good against the run so this matchup will be interesting to watch. The Saints run a two back system with Mark Ingram and Tim Hightower. Ingram exploded last week, rushing for 146 yards and a touchdown. He also caught a 21-yard touchdown pass. Hightower is a pass catching back that has big play ability. He finished last week’s game with two catches, 54 yards and a touchdown. He also ran for 51 yards on 15 carries.

The biggest matchup of the day will be the LIons secondary against the Saints receivers. New Orleans has a lot of playmakers, including Brandin Cooks, Michael Thomas and Willie Snead. Cooks, Thomas and Snead combined for 146 yards on 14 catches. The trio also caught two touchdown passes. Detroit will also need to keep an eye on Saints tight end Coby Fleener who caught four passes for 59 yards last week. Detroit has struggled against tight ends this season, but has improved in coverage over the past few weeks.


Keys to the game

  • Detroit’s secondary against the Saints receivers is the biggest key in this game. It will be hard for the Lions to completely shut down the Saints passing offense, but they need to be able to contain them. New Orleans’ offense is high powered and when they get rolling, they are hard to stop.
  • This game could turn into a shootout, so the next key in this game is the Lions passing game against the Saints secondary. New Orleans’ secondary is worse than the Lions, so Stafford needs to be able to pick apart this secondary. If the passing game struggles, the Lions will be in trouble.
  • Detroit’s defensive line will be key. They need to pressure Brees into bad throws because if he has time to sit back in the pocket, he will pick apart the Lions’ defense.

Prediction

Detroit will win this game, but it will be close yet again. This game could turn into a shootout, but I like Detroit’s defense better so I’m going with them. Detroit has improved defensively over the past few weeks and should make enough stops to get the victory in New Orleans.

Lions 38, Saints 31.

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